My annual trip to Japan always includes a visit to an onsen (hot spring). The relaxed feeling after dipping into a Japanese hot spring is indescribable. Since my first onsen experience many years ago, I always leave time in my Japan travel schedule for onsen therapy.

When I told a Japanese friend that I am going to Akita prefecture this year, she suggested I visit Nyuto Onsen village. So I took a shinkansen (bullet train) for an hour from Akita city to Tazawako station and then a fifty minutes bus ride to the mountains to take a dip in one of the famous hot springs there.

There were so many onsen facilities in Nyuto Onsen village to choose from that I was tempted to go onsen-hopping all day! In the end, I settled for just one, Taenoyu Onsen. It is a cosy little ryokan with a rustic feeling. It has two types of hot spring water, one gold-coloured and the other clear.

The view from the private family bath that I booked was amazing! The waterfall from the Sendatsu River was mesmerizing as I soaked in the warm mineral water. View at Taenoyu Onsen


I will come back again in another season to soak in other hot springs in this area.

This is a summary of my research project “Media Consumption Experiences of Southeast Asian Chinese Migrants in Australia” under the supervision of Dr. Lewis Mayo and Dr. Fran Martin of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. It was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Postgraduate Diploma of Arts (Asian Studies) at the University of Melbourne.

Media Consumption and Self-Identity

My thesis explores the relationship between international mobility, media and identity. I interviewed eighteen Southeast Asian Chinese migrants from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei in Australia to understand how and to what extent their narrative media consumption influences the ongoing construction of their identities, including their cultural identities and their sense of belonging to particular places.

My respondents consist of twelve migrants from Malaysia, five from Singapore and one from Brunei Darussalam. These migrants are working adults (aged 28-63) with the status of permanent residents or citizens of Australia. These migrants are all first generation migrants who have lived in Australia for one year to seventeen years, with one exception who has lived here for thirty-three years. They were asked about their media consumption history before arriving in Australia and after their arrival in Australia. These interviews were conducted between May and July 2013.

In my interviews with ethnically Chinese migrants from Southeast Asia, I confirmed the interactive two-way relationship between narrative media consumption and self-identity outlined in earlier research (Christiansen 2004; Georgiou 2004; Metykova 2010). The self-identities of migrants affect their media consumption choices according to their needs, interests and lifestyles. Migrants’ media consumption has the power to transform and reconstruct identity and sense of belonging. Several of the interviewed migrants choose to consume Chinese language media to maintain or re-construct their cultural identity, as they define it. I found that knowledge and understanding of Australian culture through the consumption of Australian media had contributed to a sense of belonging in Melbourne for most of my respondents.

Technology Changes Media Consumption Patterns

My research contributes to our understanding of the media consumption experiences of ethnically Chinese migrants in today’s technology intensive context, a context which differs significantly from that in the times when earlier studies were conducted (Sinclair et al. 2000; Sun et al. 2011, 516). I found that the interactive relationship between self-identities and media consumption is influenced by two factors. The first factor is the advancement of Internet technology and miniaturized media devices making it possible for my respondents to personalize their narrative media consumption choices from around the world, create their identities and carry their social networks while on the move locally and internationally. Mobility of media in everyday life has influenced the formation of identities and the media consumption patterns of the respondents. They customized their media consumption with globally sourced content according to their interests and consumed their media whenever they wanted it. This has helped these migrants’ to maintain their media consumption interests after migrating to Australia. The massive amount of information available online has made my respondents actively involved in the formation of their identities through their interactive searching via the Internet. Furthermore, these miniaturized media devices encouraged “dual screening”, with some of my respondents consuming overseas media while watching local Australian media on TV simultaneously. This illustrates my respondents’ active choice making in determining which media content to consume according to their interests and preferred time, switching back and forth from mobile devices to broadcast TV. Furthermore, Facebook, accessible through miniaturized media devices, is transforming the creation of identities by my respondents, as it provides a platform for them to update their status about their activities, emotions and experiences while on the move locally and internationally. Their Facebook social networks become portable as these are carried on the devices they take with them everywhere they go. The transnational narrative media and hyperlinks shared among migrants’ families and friends are clearly influencing and directing my respondents’ media consumption patterns.

Mobility as a Lifestyle Choice

The second factor that I found influencing the relationship between self-identities and media consumption in these migrants’ lives relates to physical international mobility. Traveling and living in different countries leads to the development of the concept of mobility over a lifetime—or “lifestyle mobility”—in their imagination (Cohen et al. 2013). Several of my interviewees exhibited ongoing transnational mobility as a lifestyle choice, leading different lifestyles and consuming different media according to their presence in different countries. The concept of mobility over a lifetime among some of my respondents was developed naturally from the sense of belonging to various communities they had been members of. This sense of belonging was maintained, in part, through media consumption (as well as continual travel to these places). Consumption of narrative media that relate to travelling and experiencing adventures influenced the self-identities of several respondents, augmenting their desire for “lifestyle mobility.” Frequent travelling imprinted on the psyche of some respondents a nomadic identity of mobility and versatility, with their varied media consumption patterns supporting these aspirations.

There is the possibility that new media technologies are creating a different sense of community and identity from the old print and televisual media that were used to imagine traditional nation states and diasporic communities. Migrants who are computer-savvy are able to utilize the Internet through miniaturized media devices to access their preferred media content whenever and wherever they want. They are able to travel internationally and live in different countries without having to suffer significant loss of their preferred narrative media. Online social networks like Facebook have made it easy for migrants to continue being connected to their network of families and friends. This helps decrease the impact of migrants’ loss of physical contact with family and friends in their home countries. The advancement in Internet technology and miniaturized media devices has enabled migrants to feel more mobile internationally, with the ability to continue accessing their social networks and favorite media content. This has made it easier for migrants to develop the concept of “lifestyle mobility” in their imagination. However, migrants who are not able to utilize these new media technologies perhaps feel less readily mobile internationally.

Mobility of Media and International Travel

The research for this thesis leads me to postulate that a relationship is forming between the mobility of media in everyday life and the international mobility of people, particularly migrants. The advancement in Internet technology and miniaturized media devices is fueling people’s desires and aspirations for international travel. (The Internet lowers cultural barriers by providing a tremendous amount of information including travel recommendations and good deals with regards to transportation, accommodation and tours.) It also provides a platform for people to share their lifestyles and aspirations. Blogs and social media networks enable people to share information about their activities, lifestyles and aspirations. The information sharing by families and friends on Facebook of photos and videos of their activities has the power to influence others in their social network to desire to travel and experience these activities too. The international mobility of people has increased greatly as the costs of international travel have decreased, especially with the introduction of budget airlines. Travel information on the Internet has also helped lower travel costs for people as it enables them to book flights, accommodation and tours without requiring travel agent intermediaries. The decrease in the cost of international travel has reduced geographical barriers, making it easier for people to fulfill their aspirations for travel and adventure.

Impact and Interpretation

My research offers insights into how narrative media consumption through new media technologies has influenced the on-going construction of identities and sense of belonging on the part of the migrants studied. The increasing reflexivity I find among my respondents extends to reflections about their ethnic and national identities at a level that extends beyond their actions and decisions involving what kind of media to consume. These migrants are actively creating their own identities through media consumption, thereby becoming increasingly involved in producing their own DIY biographies (Beck, 2009). Furthermore, the concept of “lifestyle mobility” is important to most of my respondents (Cohen et al. 2013). In the majority of my respondents’ minds, international travel and living in different countries have led to the development of the concept of mobility over a lifetime.

The construction of self-identity is an ongoing complex process. Although there may be many factors influencing the formation of self-identity, the power of media consumption in it cannot be underestimated. I hope my findings will provide further understanding of the process of migrants’ self-identity formation, including their cultural identity and sense of belonging to a place.


Beck, Ulrich. 2009. “Losing the Traditional: Individualization and Precarious Freedoms.” In Identity in Question, edited by Anthony Elliott, and Paul du Gay, 14-33. London: Thousand Oaks.

Christiansen, Connie C. 2004. “News Media Consumption among Immigrants in Europe: The Relevance of Diaspora.” Ethnicities 4(2): 185-207.

Cohen, Scott, Tara Duncan, and Maria Thulemark. 2013. “Lifestyle Mobilities: The Crossroads of Travel, Leisure and Migration.” Mobilities 2013. Accessed September 4, 2013. Doi:10.1080/17450101.2013.826481.

Georgiou, Myria. 2004. “Consuming Ethnic Media, Constructing Ethnic Identities, Shaping Communities: A Case Study of Greek Cypriots in London.” In Race/ Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audience, Content, and Producers, edited by Rebecca A. Lind, 52-60. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Metykova, Monika. 2010. “Only a Mouse Click Away From Home: Transnational Practices of Eastern European Migrants in the United Kingdom.” Social Identities 16(3): 325-338.

Sinclair, John, Audrey Yue, Gay Hawkins, Kee PooKong, and Josephine Fox. 2000. “Chinese Cosmopolitanism and Media Use.” In Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas, edited by Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair, 35-90. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Sun, Wanning, Audrey Yue, John Sinclair, and Jia Gao. 2011. “Diasporic Chinese Media in Australia: A post-2008 overview.” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 25(4): 515-527.

I went grocery shopping with my 4-year-old niece last week. I was pleasantly surprised to find mini shopping carts available for her. There she was proudly pushing her own mini shopping cart alongside my regular adult size shopping cart. When she saw me putting things into my cart, she mimicked me. The mini shopping cart does make my grocery shopping easier as I can quickly pick up the stuff I need while my niece is distracted by the decisions she has to make about what she wants to buy and put in her cart. Of course at such a young age, all the items in her cart were her favorite snacks. At the cashier, she obediently asked her mother if she could have the snacks in her cart.

I find this an interesting phenomenon. Children are being molded to follow adult commercial activities, such as shopping at a very young age. I consider 4 years old a very young age! Is this a good thing? I remember clearly that when I was her age, there were no mini shopping carts available in the market. My era is now considered a dinosaur era, the era before personal computers.

(Japanese version coming soon).

The Little Adult

In April this year, I made a trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms (Sakura). It was my first time in Japan during this special season. The blooming of cherry blossoms in Japan has special significance. It marks the arrival of spring, the start of the new school year, the start of working life for university graduates and hope for a fresh start in all endeavors.

Catching the cherry blossoms season in Japan requires some planning. First one has to know when the buds will start to flower on the trees. Then it will take roughly a week for the buds to reach full bloom. After that the flowers will remain for about a week before it starts to drop. The trees will be bare even faster if there are heavy rain and winds causing the flowers to drop quickly. To make a guess as to when the cherry blossoms will start to flower in Japan, one has to look at previous year’s data. For people travelling from outside Japan, it is a safe bet to be in Tokyo by 1st April.

There are famous Cherry Blossoms viewing spots all over Japan. There are specific parks where hundreds of cherry blossom trees are planted. The places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo are Ueno Park (across from JR Ueno Station), Shinjuku Park (near Shinjuku JR Station), Sumida Park (along the Sumida River from the Asakusa subway station), Chidorigafuchi around Kitanomaru Park and Yasukuni Shrine (near Kudanshita subway station).

Top 3 Tips:

1. Find out when the cherry blossoms will start to flower

2. Don’t miss the Night Sakura (Cherry Blossoms lighted up at night)!

3. Bring a sheet to lie on the ground so that you can enjoy a picnic under the cherry trees (a Japanese cultural experience)

Click here for our Sakura photos.













Last month I attended a public lecture by Professor Koichi Iwabuchi on multicultural co-living in Japan. He talked about many foreigners already living in Japan despite there being no government policy towards immigrants. Japan is tightening its borders in reaction to terrorism following the footsteps of other countries around the world like America and UK. He thinks Japan should be more open to immigrants and have a coherent policy to enable this.

This will be hard to achieve in Japan. Immigration is a sensitive topic around the world. Its benefits are great. It can drive domestic growth, provide needed skills, support an ageing population and make a place interesting and exciting to live in. However, the negative points will start to appear to residents when a country is in recession and unemployment rises like in Spain, or when the environmental costs of immigration are high in a hot and dry country like Australia. This will create friction when citizens begin to resent the presence of immigrants, like in Singapore.






Pete Bethune, an anti-whaling activist from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is currently facing charges of trespassing in connection with his boarding of a Japanese vessel in the Antarctic Ocean. This is one of a series of incidents between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese Research Whaling fleet. The anti whaling group Sea Shepherd believes that the Antarctic Ocean is a protected sanctuary for whales. Therefore, they have been trying to stop the Japanese from whaling there. However the Japanese government believes that they are within their rights in their research whaling activities.

Sea Shepherd’s has a good goal of protecting whales, an endangered species but I disagree with their aggressive methods.

The whaling issue is difficult to resolve due to the fundamental difference in opinions towards whales. Many people in Australia and New Zealand believe that whales are intelligent conscious mammals that should be protected. However the Japanese government considers whales as a resource of the sea that should be in the same category as fish. While recognizing a decrease in the number of whales due to overfishing in the past, the Japanese government asserts that there has been a 10% yearly increase in the number of whales since the ban on commercial whaling in 1986. Among the various reasons for their whaling activities, I think the main reason is national pride. Japan views whaling as an important tradition, and resents being told by other countries what it should and shouldn’t do. After all, Japan does not preach to other countries on what they should not eat.

This dispute can only be resolved with a compromise on both sides. The international community should allow Japan to conduct whaling activities along it’s own coasts, in exchange for which Japan would stop its research whaling activities. In addition, every year the international community should limit the number of whales caught by Japan and other whaling countries like Iceland and Norway. There is no clear right answer to this whaling dispute, but I think this is a good suggestion. Both sides are entitled to their opinions and reasons.






捕鯨の論争について、解決の難しさの理由は、クジラに対する意見が基本的に違うと思う。豪州とニュージーランドの国民の大多数は、クジラが知能の発達した哺乳類なので、守るべきだと思っている。日本政府の考えは、違ってクジラがただ海の資源の一つなので、魚のように扱うべきだと思っている。日本の主張では、かつては乱獲でクジラの急減したが、1986年で商業捕鯨が一時停止されたから、現在年間10%以上が増えている。日本は、商業捕鯨をしたい理由がいくつかあるのだが、国民の愛国心が高まっていることが主要な理由だと思う。日本は、他の国から「何をして良いか、何をしてはいけないか」を言われていることに、憤慨している 。日本は、他の国に何を食べるべきだと説教していない 。

この論争は、両方が妥協しないと、解決できない。もし国際社会が日本に沿岸捕鯨を認めれば、代わりに、調査捕鯨を止めることができる。この提案に加えて、国際社会は、毎年日本と他の捕鯨国である、アイスランドとノルウェーがクジラを捕られる数を制限できる 。この提案は、良いと思う。捕鯨の論争については、はっきりと正しい答えがない。オーストラリアと日本の両国は、自国の理由と意見がある。

I decided to start this blog in Japanese to polish up my Japanese language skills. In reference to the Japanese idiom “腕をみがく”,I will do my best. Comments are welcome.

Recently, I read a short Japanese story by Kawakami Hiromi titled “God”. It is a simple story about a talking bear that invited the author to go for a walk to the riverbank.

It is not unusual to find talking animals in Japanese stories. In this story, the author has made the bear so human & polite that he is even better behaved than the people that they met on the way.

There was no reference to “God” in the story except towards the end where the talking bear says, “may the blessings of the bear god rain down upon you” to the author. The author tried but could not imagine what the bear god might be like. Giving the story the title “God” is a bit misleading.

mt fuji






I started watching Japanese dorama on TV to try to improve my Japanese language skills. I was struck by the good quality of Japanese drama available. Of course since I am a die-hard romantic movies consumer, most of these movies appeal to my romantic nature.

One actually gets to know a bit about Japanese culture from the movies made by Japanese. It enables one to understand the underlying psyche of the Japanese people. Sometimes we get a peep into the repressed nature of the Japanese race. Then we see the wild creative side of these people coming out in different ways especially in anime. Different races and people work within the constraints and around them to try to release their repressed feelings and ideas. We see the society reflecting back all these dynamic energy in various ways. Sometimes with a good outcome but other times in tragedy. All these forces co-exist with each other, influencing each other.

Click here for my guide to Japanese Dorama.


Anime Movies

Anime movies are short (usually around 2 hours long) unlike the anime series which may stretch for many episodes.

These are the anime movies I highly recommend:


It was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. It involves two orphans who are in a biker gang in Neo-Tokyo and their involvement with some children who have psychic powers. Issues about whether to use one’s special powers for good or evil are introduced. It is a good movie to do a comparison with the anime from Studio Ghibli.

Black Jack

“Black Jack” is about a doctor called Black Jack who goes about saving people and has a kid who mothers him. The idea of super humans is introduced as achievable. However, the super humans die horrible deaths and Black Jack is coerced to be involved to race to find the cure for them. In the end, one feels sympathetic for the bad person who dies as she only wants to give ordinary people a chance to excel and be happy, something that she never had.

Blue Submarine Number 6

“Blue Submarine number 6” is a story about a mad scientist who wants to flood the world & allow the sea creatures (some of them are his offspring) a chance to live against the humans. It is a battle between those who live on the land and those who live in the sea. It is made very real by all those dialogue about running a submarine in the movie. However, the characters are not as well developed as some anime that I had watched before.

Ghost in the Shell

This movie’s special effects and deep storyline makes it unusual. One has to think about what the story is trying to portray and explore the psychology of the main character “Motoko Kusanagi”. Her soul is the “ghost” in the shell of her machine body. It is the only real part of her.


This anime is based on the manga comic by Osamu Tezuka. Osamu Tezuka is called the “God of Comics” as he pioneered the modern Japanese story comic form. The screenplay is by Katsuhiro Otomo who also did “Akira”. It is directed by Rintaro. It explores a world where robots and humans co-exist. The survival of the world depends on their interactions, their ability to understand each other and to live together. This movie can be contrasted with the movie “Animatrix”. “Animatrix” tells the story of how robots and humans could not live together in the world as the humans sought to dominate the world. Therefore the robots fought back, fighting for their very survival resulting in the matix.

Vampire Hunter D

The “Vampire Hunter D” is a different ball game altogether. It’s artwork is great although the story is a little on the dark side. It is about a vampire hunter called “D” who is a half vampire, half human. He is paid to hunt down a vampire who kidnapped a young beautiful woman. He risks his life to rescue the lady. The twist is that the lady and the vampire are in love. They want to escape to a place where they will be free to live together.


Studio Ghibli

For a beginner, I recommend the anime from Studio Ghibli especially the ones made by Hayao Miyazaki. In 2003, we happened to be visiting the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo  when Seto was interviewed for an International Herald Tribune article.

Here is the list of movies from Studio Ghibli that I had watched: Princess Mononoke, Totoro, Nausicaa, Grave (Tombstone) of the Fireflies, Laputa, Kiki Delivery Service, Porcoros, Panpoco, Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns.

The first anime I watched was “Princess Mononoke” by Yoji Matsuda from the famous Ghibli Studio in Japan. It was a great introduction to the world of anime. Blended into the cartoon were issues about man’s co-existence with nature, the spirit and importance of nature, the good and bad sides of human beings etc. To introduce such serious ideas into a cartoon and to be able to carry it off is amazing.

Learn more about Studio Ghibli from wikipedia. There are also several good fan sites including nausicaa.net and onlineghibli.